Nikki Goeser’s biggest regret is that she didn’t have a gun on her the night her husband was killed. It was April 2nd of last year, and Nikki was out with her husband Ben at Jonny’s Sports Bar in Nashville when a man approached them and pulled out his firearm. “I saw the tip of the gun and my memory is kind of blurred from there, but that’s when I heard the gunshot,” she described later. In that moment, she felt “helpless,” not just to see her husband at the wrong end of a gun, but also because she was unable to fight back.
Goeser owned a gun at the time and had a permit to carry it in public, but under Tennessee law at the time, she was not allowed to bring her gun into the bar. “I had to leave my gun locked in my car in the parking lot that night,” she wrote in a column in her local newspaper. “If I could have been allowed to carry my gun that night, perhaps I could have saved my wonderful husband. I can tell you that the odds would have been more in our favor.”
She soon became the face of a movement to allow guns in bars. Yet, Goeser’s own story can be seen as both an argument in favor of and against expanding gun legislation. The argument is simple enough to understand: having access to a gun may have allowed Goeser to protect herself and her husband, but it could also have led to an even more dangerous firefight in a public space.
Nevertheless, Tennessee legislators eventually passed a law allowing guns in places that sell alcohol. The law took effect in the summer of last year, only to be overturned by a state judge that November who called the law “unconstitutionally vague.” Now, less than a year later, Tennessee is on the verge of passing revised legislation, and in the process, has fired up another round of debates.